MMSMOA 2024: Geeking out at an Awesome Experience

For the first time this year, I attended the Midwest Management Summit at the Mall of America 2024 (MMSMOA 2024), and it was easily one of the best technical conferences for IT professionals. Ever since I first heard of MMS a few years ago, I have heard that it was a technical conference for technical people. It was the conference for those who are in the weeds doing the work. I can honestly say that it did not disappoint. By the end of the first morning, I was grinning ear to ear, geeking out over how detailed and technical the sessions started.

The conference was a logistical success, from the speakers, the schedule and the learning tracks. No session was too full, every speaker was available for questions, and every session I attended went way beyond the high level and into some of the nitty gritty details I’ve missed from previous conferences.

If you’ve been here before, you may have noticed that I write about a conference I attend about once a year. I’m fortunate in my role and workplace that I get to attend conferences with some regularity, and I feel like it is important to give some feedback for others who may have to cost justify their attendance at a conference. TLDR: This one is worth the price of admission.


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Table of Contents

What I Enjoyed Most about MMSMOA 2024
What I Enjoyed Least about MMSMOA 2024
Notes for Next Year’s MMSMOA

What I Enjoyed Most about MMSMOA 2024

These are some of the things that impressed me most about MMS. To be honest, there are more things I could say, but I tried to limit myself to these five topics. These are the things that make this one of the best technical conferences for IT professionals of 2024.

From Microsoft - Zach Dvorak, Lavanya Lakshman and Mike Danoski discussing Intune & Security Copilot at MMSMOA 2024
From Microsoft – Zach Dvorak, Lavanya Lakshman and Mike Danoski discussing Intune & Security Copilot

Speakers and Experience

In my opinion, this is a highlight of every good conference. Chances are, if the speakers didn’t impress you, the rest of the conference probably didn’t either. By midway through the conference, I found myself seeking sessions with certain speakers again just to hear more information on a topic, or more about their experiences. The 2024 session list can be found at the link.

It was awesome to hear from both Microsoft Product Managers and MVPs a wide range of topics such as Intune, Azure, PowerShell and Security. These speakers were either the ones developing the tools, or the ones using them every day. It was refreshing that none of the sessions turned out to be a sales pitch in disguise for the sessions I attended.

Chad Lich from Microsoft and MVP Kristopher Turner discussing Azure Arc at MMSMOA 2024
Chad Lich from Microsoft and MVP Kristopher Turner discussing Azure Arc

I also really appreciated the fact that none of the speakers were cocky or arrogant about what they were talking about. Every speaker was open to honest discussion and dialog. I noticed one session where the speaker gave out a drink token when someone managed to correct them. None of the speakers I listened to had any ego, and it made for a very relaxing and engaging experience.

Every session room was sized appropriately for the number of people in attendance. The event organizers surveyed attendees ahead of time to get an idea of session attendance and sized accordingly. There was never a session where I couldn’t find a seat, even if I arrived right when it started. I genuinely enjoyed each and every session, even the ones where I was way in over my head for technical content.

Session Timing

One of my favorite parts about MMS was that each session was about 90 minutes long, with 15 minutes of extended Q&A. You can cover a lot of information in 90 minutes, and each session was sure to do just that. The session length was perfect. I was never bored or felt like it was dragging on, and the content was just right—not too high level or shallow. I loved this time management, and this was a key highlight of the conference.

Each day, the sessions started and ended when the schedule said they would. This was huge, because I never felt rushed to get from one session to the next. Even still there was always time for questions. The first day I was a little intimidated and didn’t spend much time talking after the fact. By the end of day two, I was getting involved and asking questions and still had time to get a drink or use the restroom without being rushed.

The Fellow Attendees

This might be one of the best highlights. On our first night, we met some guys over a pick-up game of cornhole and had some great conversations comparing our work environments, tools and challenges. During the “Fair on 4” night, we met some of our Canadian brethren who offered some laughs and conversation on their experiences. All throughout the week we had some great conversations with real people, doing the same kind of work, in all kinds of industries and it was encouraging to feel like we weren’t alone in this crazy IT world.

at MMSMOA 2024
Me and some of the guys from work who attended MMS with me

Some of the guys and I managed to find other folks from the same part of the U.S.. One of the speakers invited us to breakfast, after he noticed that a bunch of us from Ohio. It was interesting to connect with so many people from the same area. At the end of the week, the fellow attendees definitely ended up being a highlight for everyone who attended.

All the Non-Technical Events and Sessions

Mike Danoski from Microsoft and Microsoft MVP James Robinson at MMSMOA 2024
Mike Danoski from Microsoft and Microsoft MVP James Robinson

Each evening, there was a non-technical or soft skills session you could attend during happy hour. This meant, grab your drink, and let’s go have a low-key session with a speaker who’s going to give you some thoughts and ideas on how to work on some key soft skills for your life. One night there was one that covered public speaking, and how to be an engaging speaker. This resulted in me learning about the concept of user groups and finding out about getting connected locally.

Another session talked about how to take charge of and advance your career. Each speaker presented their stories on how they ended up where they were and offered ways for you to explore your own options. It was excellent. These sessions became some of my favorite ways to wind down while also gaining some valuable information.

I can’t talk about the non-technical sessions without mentioning the Fair on 4 Party opening the conference. Drinks, food, axe throwing, electric carting, video games and more. It was an absolute blast. Since this conference is in the hotel attached to the Mall of America, the Fair on 4 is a full-time part of the mall. For MMS, there was one evening where it was open just to us, and it was so much fun. Highly recommend attending, and getting there a little early so you can sign up for the electric carts.

Logistics and Check In

To start off, I have to say that logistically, this might be one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. I attended with a few of my coworkers, and we arrived at the hotel before we could check in. The hotel was gracious enough to hold our bags, and we hit up the Mall for lunch. When we returned, we were able to check in with less than 5 minutes wait, which was a surprise since the held bag queue was huge. Checking into the conference was a breeze.

Opening night offered happy hour, food, beverages and a “scavenger hunt” to get to know the layout of the conference. The process was painless. This set the tone for the rest of the conference, that for me as an attendee, exceeded my expectations.

What I Enjoyed Least about MMSMOA 2024

This section is hard because I really didn’t have any complaints for this event. However, I’ll write about some things that I think others may want to consider before they decide to attend. Don’t worry though, this section will be short 🙂

Meal Availability

This isn’t a direct knock against the conference but was a challenge for me. There weren’t a lot of food options outside of the food courts at the Mall of America. Even trying to stick to some of the healthier options, by the end of the week I was ready for some regular home cooked food. This is generally true about all conferences and travel, but it was harder because it was up to the attendees to get all of their own food.

No meals were provided by the conference except for the night of the ‘Fair on 4’. There were occasionally light snacks between the first and second sessions of the morning and afternoon blocks, but that was it. Three meals a day in the Mall food court for 5 days was pretty rough by the end of the week.

Happy Hour Drink Selection

Not a major complaint here either, but something I feel compelled to mention. You could earn drink tokens throughout the conference by asking questions during sessions and participating in conversation. I liked that part and felt it was a good way to encourage engagement. The drink tokens were poker chips, which was fun and satisfying when you had a few of them. However, as a non-alcoholic drinker the choices were limited to sodas that were mixers for other drinks.

I fully recognize I’m in the minority, so this may not affect anyone else. Once I packed my bags to leave, I still had several drink tokens that were unused. I believe they had sparkling water one time, but I didn’t have any tokens that day, and didn’t see them later on. Ultimately, I went to a convenience store in the mall and bought some other drinks that I used during the rest of the conference. I understand this is nit-picky, but I didn’t want this section to be empty.

Lack of Recorded Sessions

I consider this a strength of the conference as much as I didn’t like it. During the Conference welcome session, the organizers explained that they don’t record the sessions so that the speakers don’t feel pressure to stay perfectly on topic and can let the sessions progress naturally without the pressure of a recording. However, it was difficult when there were sessions in the same time slot, and you had to make the hard choice of which session to attend. This session timing challenge made it difficult when I wanted to join a session that one of my coworkers had already signed up for. It felt almost as if it was a waste for us not to diversify.

I think this is a strength and if you are reading this as an organizer, please don’t take this as a mention to change this. Just know there were some sessions that I didn’t get to attend, that I really wanted to, and will have to grab the slides for so I can at least get an idea of the content that was available. I do believe this is the right approach, and it should be retained for future conferences. However, I think it is important to know so if you are planning on attending, it may be worth bringing someone else along who you can divide and conquer with to get the most amount of information.

Notes for Next Year’s MMSMOA

Each time I attend a conference, I try to consider what I might do differently for the next year, or what else I might want to consider. Here are the things worth mentioning.

Food Considerations

I mentioned above the challenges with eating only Mall Food Court food for an entire week. I’m thinking next time, I will plan ahead and look at either an Uber to a local grocery store, or a Instacart service or something to just have some normal food in my room. The food options were limited for bringing food with me, since I had to fly in. Even still, I like the idea of having some fresh fruits or whole foods like nuts or vegetables to eat. Not 100% sure how I might pull this off, but I now know I should at least investigate it.

Need to Plan Better for Comfort

The first session of each day started at 8:00AM, and the last session of the day ended at 6:30PM. By day three I was exhausted from the long days, and in some cases late nights. Next year I want to plan to be more comfortable throughout the event. Even while attending a conference where we were sitting down for 90+ minutes at a time, I still managed to get 13,000+ steps in each day. My feet were tired from the trips around the mall for food and going back and forth between sessions.

Shoes that are comfortable to walk around in a bunch are a must. Part of the conference gift was a light jacket and that was an excellent gift. Some of the session rooms were very hot, some were on the colder side. Having that jacket helped deal with the temperature differences and made it easier to stay comfortable. Every session room had ice water as well, so you didn’t have to leave the room for a drink. I highly recommend bringing a water bottle to make it easier for water.

Be More Social

MMSMOA 2024 closing session and prize giveaway!
MMSMOA 2024 closing session and prize giveaway!

This is probably the hardest one for me to do, and difficult for others as well. Every person I spoke to at the conference was friendly and open to talking. The people I did speak to were very helpful and insightful. The biggest takeaway I got was that we’re all out here fighting the same fight. Everyone is struggling with so many of the same issues, but some of us have found ways to solve those issues. By coming together, in an environment focused on learning, we can all learn and grow together.

If you take one thing away from my message at this conference, it’s that this is a place to meet people, and find your community. If that sounds like something you are interested in, please give this conference a shot.


There you have it! Another great conference in the books. I hope this is helpful for you to decide if MMSMOA is the right conference for you. If you are looking for a place to meet people of a similar job role and share in the learning process with others, this is the place for you. I loved this event and am definitely looking forward to next year as I hope to attend again.

I had a great time with my coworkers and the other fellow attendees. We laughed, we learned we drank a few beers and had a grand old time. If you have a chance to attend one conference this year (Or next) MMS is the one you go to.

If you have any of your own opinions or thoughts, let me know! I’d love to hear about and share more stories that show how great of a conference the Midwest Management Summit really is. Hit me up on Twitter @SeeSmittyIT to let me know what you thought of this post. Or if you are avoiding the bird site, I’m also posted up on Mastodon @[email protected]. Thanks for reading!


Curtis Smith works in IT with a primary focus on Mobile Device Management, M365 Apps, and Azure AD. He has certifications from CompTIA and Microsoft, and writes as a hobby.

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